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Ireland coach Smith calls in expert to boost Rio bid

By John Flack

Ireland head coach Darren Smith has enlisted the services of his compatriot Andy Hayward to help improve the team's strike ratio at penalty corners ahead of the World League 2 tournament which begins in Valencia this week.

Hayward is a specialist in the important skill of drag flicking and the 29-year-old helped New Zealand claim the bronze medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Two years later, he was a member of the Black Sticks side that finished ninth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Now he has turned his attention to assisting the Ireland women's team who are attempting to qualify for Rio 2016 through the World League 3 tournament.

Ulster Elks midfielder Megan Frazer is now Ireland's main penalty corner striker and she says Hayward has had a very positive influence.

"I first worked with him when we were at a training camp in England where he plays his hockey these days," explained the Ireland captain.

"He's one of the best in the world at drag flicking and I have learned a lot from him so hopefully it pays off in Spain.

"I managed to score a couple of set-pieces during our recent trip to America but, knowing that we will be playing the USA and possibly Canada again in Valencia, we didn't show too much of our hand and we have a few variations up our sleeve."

Ireland, who beat Chile 2-0 in a warm-up match on Friday, begin their campaign on Wednesday when they face South Africa before completing their pool campaign with games against Germany, Uruguay and the USA.

Belfast Telegraph

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